MERIDEN — Officer Garret Ficara always wanted to be a K9 officer and now is partnered with the newest addition to the K9 Unit, a black Labrador named Rex.
Ficara, who has been with the police department for almost four years, said Rex replaced retired police dog Vader, a narcotics detection dog assigned in the detective bureau.
Ficara works on the evening patrol shift and said having Rex — also a narcotics detection dog — has been an asset. In his first week on the job, Rex had three successful finds.
“I think everyone on (the evening shift) was ready for a dog. I mean, it’s our busiest shift, most call volume,” Ficara said. “...Rex is utilized more on motor vehicle stops.”
Rex can detect illegal narcotics, except marijuana. With medical marijuana legal in the state, and the trend towards the legalization of recreational marijuana, Ficara said the decision was made not to train Rex to alert for pot.
Being a K9 officer is an all encompassing job that doesn’t end when his shift is over. Ficara trains Rex on his days off and Rex lives with him. The Labrador loves interacting with people and children.
Sgt. Darrin McKay said all of the K9s are an important asset to the department. The training the dogs and officers go through to become certified is extensive.
“It’s great not only from a patrol function, but also for search warrants,” McKay said about having a narcotics detection K9. “You can’t put a price on it.”